October 23, 2023

Manchin Announces Ethan Reese as Winner of 2023 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Essay Contest

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, announced Ethan Reese from Beverly Elementary School in Randolph County as the winner of the 2023 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree essay contest. More than 400 entries were received from fourth graders across West Virginia. Ethan will travel to DC this holiday season to take part in the official tree-lighting ceremony alongside members of the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and the public.

“I’m thrilled to announce Ethan Reese from Beverly Elementary School has won the 2023 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree essay contest out of more than 400 outstanding submissions,” said Senator Manchin. “Ethan will join us in DC this holiday season to officially light the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, which will be from West Virginia’s beautiful Monongahela National Forest. The celebration will showcase not only our remarkable forestry, but also our strong community spirit. Thank you to everyone who entered the contest and shared with me what our Wild and Wonderful home means to you – I can’t wait to celebrate with Ethan, our fellow West Virginians and our fellow Americans.”

For this year’s essay contest, fourth grade students were invited to describe in 500 words why they love West Virginia’s forests and public lands, incorporating the theme of the 2023 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree: “Endlessly Wild & Wonderful.” Senator Manchin selected Ethan to receive a once-in-a-lifetime all-expenses paid trip for him and one guardian to travel to Washington, DC to take part in the official tree-lighting ceremony alongside members of Congress and the public. Ethan will be invited to attend several other festivities during his visit at a date to be determined in late November or early December.

The Capitol Christmas Tree – known as “The People’s Tree” – lights up the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol during the holiday season and is selected from a different national forest each year, a tradition that began in 1970 when Monongahela National Forest provided the first tree on behalf of the Forest Service. Monongahela National Forest also provided the tree in 1976. This year, the tree will be harvested in Randolph County from the Greenbrier Ranger District and will travel around West Virginia throughout November before heading to Washington.

For more information about the tree, travel route, schedule and special events, please click here.

A video of Senator Manchin congratulating Ethan is available here.

Ethan’s winning essay can be found below:

My name is Ethan Reese, and I am in 4th Grade at Beverly Elementary School. I live very close to where the Capitol Christmas Tree is from, the Monongahela National Forest. I spend a lot of time there with my family, and I am the great-great grandson of one of the very first Superintendents of the Monongahela National Forest. The biggest reason I love West Virginia forests and public lands is because they allow me to spend time with my family. I take photographs with my dad, hike with my mom, fish with my grandpa, identify wildflowers with my grandparents, travel and explore with my parents, and camp with all of my family.

One of my favorite things to do in West Virginia’s forests and public lands is to identify plants and animals, especially birds. I did see a black bear once, which was pretty exciting. I really enjoy wildflower identification the most. My parents and grandparents tell me I “get it honest” because my grandfather is a biologist, and my great grandfather was a botanist. My great grandfather even discovered a plant on Cheat Mountain that was thought to have been extinct in West Virginia. When I travel around the state with my parents, I like to watch for wildflowers, listen to birds and smell the fresh air. The sounds of the rivers are very relaxing. I have visited many places with my parents in West Virginia, but still have a lot of other places I would like to visit.

Our forest and public lands were something that allowed my family to still go outside and explore during the pandemic. For us, most of that was in the Monongahela National Forest, where I visited the Virgin Timbers on Cheat Mountain for the first time. My grandma is a retired history teacher, and she told us that over 100 years ago most of West Virginia looked like those Virgin Timbers. I learned that most of our forests were clear-cut long ago, but there were many people who helped restore our forests. One of those people was my great-great grandfather, Arthur Wood, who became Superintendent of the Monongahela National forest in 1931. He set a plan in motion to plant millions of trees to rebuild the forest for future generations. Thanks to those efforts, I am lucky my generation knows the Mountain State as one covered in Endless trees and Wonderful wildflowers, and home to many Wild animals.

I love that I have a great connection to one of West Virginia’s forest treasures, the Monongahela National Forest, through family history and my love of nature! I am excited that the Capitol Christmas tree is from the forest where I love to explore, and I know my great-great grandfather would be so happy that, almost 100 years later, our beautiful Monongahela National Forest, and other state lands, have been kept Endlessly Wild and Wonderful!